“I did all my experimentation when I was 23-24. Today, there is a reason why the customers return to me for I wouldn’t want to create something different to confuse them,” says Mukherjee about his fashion logic, at the start of our chat. “Chanel creates its signature jacket every year, with very little changes in the structure but that is what makes it a classic. The beauty is in its repetition. But you also have successful brands like Prada, who constantly innovate, push the envelope and have made a name,” he reasons.
Keen to hear more, we prod about the one element that will define his collection for his finale at the upcoming Fashion Week: “It is for the modern-day princess with a strong cultural identity. She could live in an apartment and have a job but is privileged. The collection is very Indian but is edgier with sporty silhouettes; there will be mini skirts, sporty jackets, cropped duster coats; simple structures like the clothes which people from the Amish community wear. But I will also be using the shawl work form Kashmir, trapunto quilting, handblock printing from Sanganer and I am even thinking of mohair and cashmere blouses,” he informs. When asked whether a sponsor-driven theme could be limiting, he says, “It disciplines you. It’s the same with movies where you design according to the story.”
Though he is hailed for reviving the sari for the red carpet, fashion critics panned his styling for actress Vidya Balan at her Cannes appearance this year: “We needed to make a cultural connection as Vidya was there not just for a red carpet appearance for a brand but on a day-and-night job as a part of the jury. Not everyone might know this but the jury appreciated her choices. I take the responsibility for the head drape, which was wrong. But we knew already that the look we were aiming for would either be loved or hated. People here can be regressive; many write people down,” he says, citing the example of the haath phool (jewellery worn on the hand) being adopted by overseas design houses, and says that India is appreciated more in the fashion world abroad than among us: “If an Indian wears a nath (nose ring) on the red carpet, we say it is larger-than-life, and not apt. It’s sad.”
Apart from Fashion Week Sabya is remodelling his Delhi store. “I am also working with my sister on the Sabyasachi Art Foundation that supports artists from Bengal. I am collaborating with an global brand but I can’t reveal details right now,” he signs off.